Speech of Mr. Yury Fedotov, Executive Director UNODC, at the Conference of the States Parties to the United Nations Convention against Corruption

Marrakech, 24 October 2011

Your Excellencies,

Distinguished Guests,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I commend the initiative of the government of the Kingdom of Morocco, whose commitment and support has ensured that the 4th Session of the Conference of the State Parties of UN Convention against Corruption takes place in Marrakech.

I also appreciate the high level of participation in this conference, which underscores the importance of the anti-corruption agenda among Member States.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

We are gathered here in North Africa at an important time for the region and the world.

There can be no doubt that the Arab Spring was an emphatic rejection of corruption and a cry for integrity.

With millions of ordinary people having said no to corruption, it is now for the international community to listen and to display a renewed commitment to preventing and combating corruption.

I am glad to say that, while no silver bullet exists, the United Nations Convention against Corruption provides the strongest possible framework for addressing this global issue.

Indeed, the Convention, adopted under the global umbrella of the UN, is steadily moving towards the goal of universal ratification with 154 States parties joining the Convention. I hope that a few remaining countries will follow them soon.

There has been sustained progress with the landmark adoption of the Implementation Review Mechanism, the first of its kind for such a Convention.

I welcome the launch of the Mechanism in June 2010 and I commend all the participating States for the seriousness, thoroughness and enthusiasm with which they have embraced this exercise.

The Mechanism contains tremendous potential, and this is being realized at an early stage in its existence.

But, it is not a simple or easy exercise.  It requires significant work.  Yet, we must not be daunted by the time and effort required.

We must all stand behind it, and through our active engagement, continue to strengthen its already established credibility.

The Convention calls for corruption to be prosecuted, but first and foremost, it requires preventive action in both the private and public sectors. This is true for the CEOs in their boardrooms, the police on the streets; the civil servants in their departments and the judges in their court rooms.

All of us must contribute to a culture of integrity. The eyes previously closed to corruption must become the open eyes of justice and equality.

I commend this conference for placing the prevention of corruption high on its agenda, and I look forward to further deliberations on this subject.

And, we have good reasons for doing so.

Corruption is a serious impediment to reducing poverty and achieving the Millennium Development Goals.

Universal primary education cannot exist, if bribes are needed to enter children into school systems; extreme poverty cannot be eradicated, if scarce supplies are diverted from their intended recipients; and reductions in child mortality are more difficult where payments are required to obtain medical assistance.

These issues can no longer be seen as the cost of living in our modern day societies, or as a kind of real politik.

They are the difference between relative riches and absolute poverty, eating and going hungry, and in some case, living and dying.

In this respect, UNCAC is a mechanism for safeguarding sustainable development and humanitarian aid. I urge all Member States to recognize the importance of anti-corruption measures when building their national development programs.

We must also recognize the connections between corruption and transnational organized crime and drug trafficking.             Corruption is often the facilitator of these crimes.

Indeed, the letter "C" in the word "Crime" could very well stand for "Corruption".

We need to craft effective strategies that, upstream, eliminate the crimes facilitated by corruption, and downstream, promote ethical behavior and integrity.

UNODC as guardian of the Convention, is uniquely placed to support this effort.

Our mandate and portfolio were developed by Member States with an implicit understanding of the many interconnections among these crimes.

If we are to combat corruption we must also have the necessary weapons.

A factor unifying the Arab Spring movement to the other matters I have discussed is the need to have the tools to retrieve stolen assets.

Once again, UNCAC provides groundbreaking asset recovery provisions enabling countries to detect and recover money stolen through corruption.

Working with the World Bank, UNODC uses UNCAC as the foundation for its joint Stolen Asset Recovery-StAR-initiative.

Through StAR, we work with governments, regulatory authorities, financial institutions and other bodies to empower national authorities to trace, confiscate and recover stolen assets, but also to ensure that funds remain where they belong.

I once again commend this conference for the attention it is paying to the return of stolen assets.

And, thanks to the StAR initiative, we are sending a very clear message to all those who believe that the proceeds of crime can be safely hidden.

The message is simple: There can be no safe havens for stolen assets.

We must also recognize the key role played by the private sector.

Leadership from the business community was demonstrated two years ago, when 100 chief executives called on Governments to establish a robust implementation review mechanism for the UN Convention against Corruption.

This is now done and the time has come to translate these declarations into concrete action.

To do this, the business community should:

  1. 1) Adopt private-sector anti-corruption policies aligned to the Convention.
  2. 2) Establish a credible mechanism - designed and governed by business and perhaps inspired by the Mechanism that Governments have already put in place - for the external assurance of anti-corruption performances.
  3. 3) Invest in strengthening public integrity in developing countries, using the Convention as an insurance policy for business investments.
  4. 4) Invest in the supply chain, with large corporations helping small businesses to successfully counter corruption.

Building strong and productive partnerships between the private and public sectors is another vital step to combating corruption. But, because fighting corruption is everyone's business, we need the assistance of civil society to resist corruption, build a culture of integrity, and deliver change.

Let me say, I am aware of the different positions taken on the participation of observers in the meetings of the Implementation Review Group, and civil society's role in the Review Mechanism.

I hope that, in Marrakech, we will find the shared wisdom to address and resolve these issues.

Education is another key area. States parties need to strengthen their awareness raising and education throughout all sectors of society.

The media also have a fundamental role to play.  Journalists must be allowed to report on corruption wherever it arises, but they must also follow their professional codes of conduct.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Advances are being made in the area of anti-corruption; however, we need to remain on course. Through UNCAC, countries are receiving technical assistance, but we need to work harder at identifying needs and to learn from past experiences.

Finally, let us make sure that our political commitment meets the high standards to which millions of ordinary people around the world are determined to hold us.

Speaking with one clear voice, the international community must say no to corruption.

If not, we risk failing the very people who suffer the most from this global crime.

Thank you.